At VR Fitness Insider, we are a bit biased when it comes to using VR as a fitness tool. We honestly use it every day and constantly look for new ways to leverage this immersive technology to help people get more active. I love it when I run across people using VR to workout in. Geoff Bowman is one of those people and he has recently lost 30 lbs by playing his favorite PSVR games. I reached out to Geoff when I heard of his story and got a chance to sit down with him to discuss his VR fitness journey.
VRFI: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me and sharing your fitness journey. Your progress so far has been amazing! What made you get into VR in the first place and which VR headset do you use to workout in?
Geoff: Thank you! It’s my pleasure to share! I got into VR back in 2014 after experiencing a demo of the Oculus DK1 at an exhibit for the movie Interstellar. It was a really simple experience but I remember having the headset on and seeing the environment of this spacecraft interior fade up into existence, looking around, and then 5 seconds later realizing “Oh my god this isn’t real!” I literally forgot I was wearing the headset the second there was something on the display. That solidified VR for me as a format. I followed the press in this space pretty closely since but waited a bit before buying an HMD of my own. I got a PSVR last summer and I’m very happy with it.
VRFI: Was VR your first experience with gaming, or do play other PC, console or mobile games also?
Geoff: No, I have a pretty long gaming history. I started on SNES and Sega Genesis at friends’ houses but the first console I bought and owned was N64. Parallel to consoles I was gaming on the family Apple II GS and every subsequent PC we owned but that was mostly educational titles to appease my parents’ typical “rot your brain” concerns. Pretty much if any gadget I’ve owned can have games on it, then I’ve gamed on it: macs, pcs, consoles, mobile devices, TI-83 calculators,… games have always been part of my life. I’m excited to be living in a time where VR is finally becoming such a well-implemented reality! The gaming community has been dreaming about this for as long as I can remember.
VRFI: Did you know right away that VR could be used as a fitness tool?
Geoff: The thought crossed my mind. It wasn’t my first interest in it but in musing on the applications for the technology beyond gaming I thought about virtual classrooms first and that naturally made me think “hey someone could host aerobics class virtually too… actually why even make it a hosted class and not just a game that takes exercise as input”. I was pretty happy to see some of the earliest top-selling releases were boxing games and rhythm games that were indeed physically demanding. When Beat Saber launched for PSVR I unofficially decided to do an experiment just to see if this was legit or not: I’d change nothing about my lifestyle except adding regular VR workouts and check on my progress in 6 months. So I didn’t eat better or drink less or do full gym workouts or anything, just VR workouts. Up until six months ago though I never thought it could actually replace other forms of exercise and be viable. Now there isn’t a doubt in my mind that there’s something very powerful here that could change a lot of lives.
VRFI: Beat Saber is an excellent VR game for getting a well-rounded workout. How many times a week do you play it and for how long?
Geoff: Lots of people love Beat Saber for a really good reason: it’s movement to music. There’s such a massive dopamine rush from that; it’s no surprise that pretty much everywhere you see people working out you also find music involved even if they’re just listening to a workout playlist. When Beat Saber first came out I played 5 times a week for about an hour per session working my way through the campaign, but quickly started sprinkling in other games like Creed: Rise to Glory or Knockout League to break it up and introduce different movements. Beatsaber is always involved in my cardio workout though every single time and I just love it! I could play it until my arms fall off and still want to keep playing.
VRFI: Do you play other VR fitness games, and if so which ones?
Geoff: I mentioned Creed and Knockout League. I also had a phase over the winter of seeing what non-fitness games I could make into fitness games through playstyle and ensuring good form and the largest range of motion possible. Raw Data and SuperHot are both great if you commit to playing in a certain way. Racket Fury can get my heart rate up if I treat it like I would a real professional competitive table tennis match and not just a video game. I even found that if you row from one side of the lake to the other between every fish you hook, even Catch and Release becomes a decent core workout. I’d encourage everyone to purposely try to make their favorite VR games more active and challenging by playing in a different way.
VRFI: What is your VR fitness regimen and do you mix it up so you don’t get bored with the same routine?
Geoff: I am always open to sprinkling in a different game or adapting the amount of time spent per game, but after getting about a month of experience and experimentation, for the most part, I tried to stick to the following each session:
Beatsaber – 10 songs on expert or expert+ (first time through with no fail mod off… then turn it on and repeat any songs I failed out on… eventually you either get better at the game or you get fitter than the people who are)
Creed: Rise to Glory – each gym exercise once and then one match
Knockout League – each training exercise once on stamina and then one match
I found this was pretty easy to track and added up to about 45-60 mins per session in VR and waiting for games to load made for natural breaks. I would mix up the order of things based on how I was feeling but tried to complete everything required in a game before moving on to the next. It’s worth noting too that towards the end I started incorporating some light dumbbell work outside of VR to tone up a bit. The weight loss is 100% VR though.
VRFI: Have you noticed any changes in your health, wellbeing and energy levels since you started using VR as a workout tool?
Geoff: SO many! Clothes that were popping buttons before are now fitting perfectly. I have been able to keep up with my son as he’s been playing his first year of T-ball this spring and have a lot more energy. I have a desk job and a long commute (read: constantly sitting) and I spend a lot less time nursing back and neck pain now, and I do feel a lot more equipped to take on new habits as well as keep this one going.
VRFI: How has VR Fitness Insider help your journey with VR Fitness?
Geoff: I read VR Fitness Insider’s game reviews voraciously when deciding new games to try and how to set my workout limits and expectations appropriately to avoid injury and maximize effectiveness. The coverage you guys have done specifically of Creed has been excellent and informative. I rushed home after reading your article about the update to Creed that added (among others) Carl Weathers and Mr. T to the playable character list! Haha.
VRFI: Do you have any advice for people who are living a life that doesn’t have enough physical activity in it and are thinking about getting started with VR as a fitness tool?
Geoff: DO IT!!! Seriously, VR’s greatest asset in the fitness space is making workouts not just “fun” like your one health-nut aunt says spin class is “fun” but truly, effortlessly fun. I have a really really hard time sticking with habits that are good for me but that require lots of time, effort, or discomfort and I’ve never felt like VR workouts were a burden. Maybe that’s because instead of trying to gamify an otherwise boring workout, most of them are really solid games first and foremost and are a workout as a side-effect of the gameplay. I’ve been able to use this to very easily set up a workout habit and associate “working out” with “fun” in my mind more and more and that’s really where the battle for better health is: the mind. At this point, I haven’t had many issues sticking with fitness outside VR since I hit the end of my 6-month experiment. It was, and I believe is… for anyone, a great first step towards a healthier lifestyle no matter how you look or feel now! And if it doesn’t work, then the downside is that you have an awesome piece of new gaming technology to enjoy and disappear into your favorite games… you literally can’t lose!
VRFI: Thank you, Geoff for spending some time with us discussing how you are getting more active. You are an inspiration and we look forward to following you on your journey.
VRFI: Let’s face it, there are a lot of people in this world who lead very sedentary lives. With desk jobs and long commutes, we are sitting on our butts more than ever these days. Yes, we still have a choice to go for a walk, go to the gym or ride a bike for long distances but that’s not for everyone. What if there was another way to get active? A way to immerse yourself in another world, and have fun while you’re moving your body? It’s called Virtual Reality and it’s a fitness game changer. If you would like to learn more about VR fitness, download our VR Fitness Beginner Guide. You’ll learn everything you need to know about getting started in VR fitness.